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Protection of Human Rights Defenders is Everybody’s Responsibility

The year 2010 marks the 62nd anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly in 12 December, an occasion that became, ever since, an international day for human rights celebrated by all nations. This year’s celebration is earmarked for highlighting the achievements of human rights defenders and the role they play to end all forms of discrimination on the one hand, and the basic role which should be played by governments to protect and empower them to fight for their cause, on the other, in addition to inspiring a new generation of human right defenders to confront and deny all forms of discrimination wherever and whenever they exist.

Despite the progress made over the last six decades, human rights issues still call for more struggle as only few of human rights defenders are now known and renowned while the majority of them are struggling and suffering from different forms of torture without being noticed by anyone.

The need for government and community support to human rights defenders is evident when we look at the state of all human rights issues around the globe where the majority of an estimated 370 million indigenous population all over the world are still facing all forms of discrimination even in the developed world, and where life expectancy for their newborns is 20 years below non-indigenous children.

Minorities face similar violations, as in Latin America, for instance, where 150 millions of African descent have fallen prey to poverty, far more above other population segments. Equally, persons with disabilities are estimated to stand at 650 million out of whom 426 millions live below poverty line in developing countries.

Women – half the population of the globe – are still facing tremendous discrimination in some communities; one of the most alarming and disappointing statistics on this issue is that 70% of out of school children are girls. 

About 100 million persons are forced annually into poverty because they are compelled to pay the cost of health care services. In various countries, children from poor backgrounds receive immunization 10 times less than their rich counterparts, while poor women have access to safe motherhood, where trained midwives who can save their lives are lacking, 20 times less than rich counterparts.

The world hosts more than 200 million migrants all over the globe who face different forms of discrimination the most painful of which are racism and xenophobia, for both legal and illegal migrants in developing and developed worlds alike.

In this occasion, GIHR hopes that world governments will support human rights defenders as major development partners, and that the international scene will witness effective movement on the part of UN member states for comprehensive reform of the UN system in general, and the security council in particular, where the latter is considered as the most vulnerable of UN agencies to politicization and double standards.

On the Arab states level, GIHR hopes that the new year will witness more support to human rights defenders, and more activity on the part of governments to achieve more tangible results as requested by most human rights defenders since most Arab states are still non-signatories to the optional protocols which entitle individuals the right to file complaints, while most of these countries still hold some reservations towards some major articles of basic human rights conventions which amount sometimes to contradicting the purpose of establishing these conventions. Arab civil society organizations need more freedom so that they can act more effectively, while the national human rights organs, few as they are, will not play their role unless they enjoy requisite independence.

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